Michael Johns will make his professional managerial debut by heading up the 2010 coaching staff of the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League that was announced on December 16. He will be joined in Princeton by pitching coach Marty DeMerritt, coach Wuarnner Rincones, and athletic trainer Nick Medina.
Johns, a resident of Orange Park, FL will be entering his fifth year of professional baseball in 2010 and it will be his third as a coach. He has spent the previous two seasons on the coaching staff of the Hudson Valley (NY) Renegades, Tampa Bay's short-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. He played two professional seasons as a middle infielder in the Colorado Rockies organization in Class-A ball at Portland (OR) and Asheville (NC) after being their 19th round selection in the June, 1997 draft. He graduated from Tulane University, where he was a two-time Conference USA all-conference shortstop for the Green Wave. Following his playing career, he was the assistant baseball coach at Fernandina Beach (FL) High School for four years and then spent four additional seasons as the head coach at Orange Park (FL) High School before joining the Rays organization on December 11, 2007.
DeMerritt begins his tenth year in the Rays organization (and 34th in professional baseball) by returning to Princeton for a fourth straight season. Last season, his 2009 P-Rays' pitching staff set Princeton single-season franchise records for lowest earned run average, least runs allowed, least earned runs allowed, least bases on balls issued, and least balks issued. He has previously worked with Rays pitching staffs at class-A Bakersfield (2001-03), Charleston, SC (2004), and Visalia (2005-06). In 2002, his Bakersfield Blaze staff led all of minor league baseball with 1,281 strikeouts. DeMerritt served four years as a major league pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants (1987, 1989, 1991) and the Chicago Cubs (1999) with his 1989 Giants' staff being a big reason the Giants advanced as National League champion to the World Series that year. He spent five years in the Cubs organization as a minor league pitching coach before his 1999 stint as their major league pitching coach. Among his many stops, he coached for Samsung in Korea in 1990 and three years (1992-94) in the Florida Marlins organization. He began his lengthy coaching career in 1983 with the Giants' single-A affiliate at Clinton, IA. As a player, he was selected by St. Louis in the June, 1971 draft and pitched for eight seasons in the minors with the Cardinals, Brewers, and Astros.
Rincones comes to Princeton on the heels of a very successful 2009 as manager of Tampa Bay's entry in the Venzuelan Summer League, where his team went 41-28 and captured the VSL Championship. He spent 2008 as the hitting coach and infield instructor for the VSL Rays and also spent the 2007 season in the same capacity when the VSL affiliate was shared between the Rays and the Reds. Prior to 2009, his only other prior managerial experience was in 2006 when he skippered the VSL Reds. He also worked ten years (1996-2005) at the Chicago White Sox Venezuelan Academy as a hitting coach, infield instructor, and scout. His professional playing career consisted of five seasons (1991-95) as an outfielder in the White Sox system, reaching as high as Class-A South Bend of the Midwest League in 1995.
The summer of 2010 will mark Medina's return to Princeton after a two-season absence since he also served as athletic trainer for the P-Rays in 2007. Since then he was the trainer for the Class-A Columbus (GA) Catfish in 2008 and the Class-A Bowling Green (KY) Hot Rods in 2009. Prior to joining the Rays organization, in 2006 he was the athletic trainer for the Vermont Lake Monsters, an affiliate of the Washington Nationals, in the New York-Penn League. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of New Mexico and following graduation, gained experience in outpatient physical therapy clinics (2004-06) and as an intern for one season (2003) with the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League.
In other Rays minor league coaching news, several former Princeton names are showing up on various coaching staffs throughout the Tampa Bay system. Princeton's inaugural 1997 skipper, the award-winning Charlie Montoyo, will return to AAA Durham, where his 2009 Bulls won the AAA National Championship. Joe Szekely, who managed the P-Rays in 2008, will return for a second consecutive season as the hitting coach for the Charlotte Stone Crabs and will also be joined there for a second straight season by trainer Chris Tomashoff (2000). At Bowling Green will be coach Manny Castillo (2003-05) and athletic trainer Scott Thurston (2008). Two of last year's 2009 P-Rays, manager Jared Sandberg and athletic trainer Andrew Hauser, will both be moving up to Hudson Valley in the same capacities following the great season (36-31) the Princeton squad enjoyed last season. Princeton's previous two infield coaches, Dan DeMent (2009) and Hector Torres (2008) will both be on the instructional crew of the Gulf Coast League Rays this coming summer. Finally, Jamie Nelson (2000, 2003-2007), the winningest manager in Princeton franchise history, will be visiting Hunnicutt Field periodically in 2010 during his third straight season as Tampa Bay's catching coordinator.
Reserved box seats and general admission ticket books are already on sale for the 2010 Princeton Rays' Appalachian League season. Persons needing more information are requested either to contact the P-Rays either by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (304) 487-2000.
- From the team press release.